Input sought on changes to laws governing adoption records

    PORT HAWKESBURY: The provincial government wants to know what Nova Scotians think about modifying the policies regarding adoption records.

    Currently in Nova Scotia, a birth parent or an adult who was placed for adoption as a child can request the government search for the other party. If that person is found, they must consent to having their identifying information released to the other party.

    Having open adoption records would change things significantly. If the provincial government adopted that policy, identifying information about one of the parties, either an adult adopted person or a birth parent, would be released to the other without consent, unless the birth parent or adult adopted person has filed a disclosure veto.

    A disclosure veto allows a birth parent or adoptee to register in advance so that identifying information about them cannot be released. A disclosure veto expires upon the person’s death.

    “This is a pretty sensitive subject for a lot of people,” said Janet Nearing, a consultant with KPMG Canada. “There are strong views on different sides of the situation.”

    Nearing’s group was hosting a community information session on the matter at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre last Wednesday. It was one of 11 such sessions hosted across the province.

    “Since about the mid-1940’s, adoption records in this province were sealed, and it meant that neither the court nor the government shared information about the adoption with anyone,” Nearing said. “It stayed like that for a long time.

    “In 1996, the government passed the Adoption Information Act, and its goal was to balance the right to know with the right to privacy. At that time, it essentially created the adoption disclosure program.”

    That program can released medical information that exists on file with an adopted person or a birth parent. There’s also a register where people can sign up stating that, if the other party comes forward and wants to be contacted, contact will be made.

    “There’s also a provision where social workers can conduct a search for an adopted person or a birth parent,” Nearing said. “They need that other person’s consent to share the information, and that’s the difference between Nova Scotia and other provinces. Consent is required first.”

    All other provinces except PEI allow the information to be released without consent.

    The sessions are now finished up, but an on-line survey will allow Nova Scotians to express themselves until January 3. The survey can be accessed at: novascotia.ca/adoption-records-consultation/.

    Among those attending the meeting were folks from the Nova Scotia Adoptee Advocacy Group, a non-partisan collective encouraging change within the Nova Scotian political environment to improving access to birth records.

    The group can be contacted through Facebook.